Deanie Peters went missing February 5, 1981.
PRESCOTT, AZ. (WZZM) - Thirty-two years ago, chaos consumed Forest Hills Central Middle School because a 14-year old girl had gone missing.
Deanie Peters disappeared.
More than three decades later, Kent County Cold Case detectives are still trying to find out what happened to Deanie.
For any parent, regardless of the circumstances, losing a child is devastating. Some manage to find a way to live with the loss because they know what happened. For John & Mary Peters, living with it has been extremely painful. Through their suffering, they've recreated a "beacon of hope," a "waiting room" as they continue to wait for closure from what altered their lives 32 years ago.
In the mountains of central Arizona, there's a place with a room. It has a dresser, a quilted bed and a doll collection.
It's Deanie Peters' bedroom.
"She was a beautiful girl," said Mary Peters, Deanie's mother, from her home in Prescott, Arizona. "I still pray for her every night. Half our lives we've lived without her, but we live with her memory."
In every home John and Mary Peters have lived, they've recreated Deanie's room the exact same way she left it at their home in Grand Rapids on the day Deanie disappeared: February 5, 1981.
"[Deanie] used this mirror to [look at when she would] comb her hair," said Mary Peters, as she was explaining the items in the room.
Deanie's mother and step-father say they can still remember every detail of that night.
"I said [to Deanie], 'why don't you ride over to the school with me because William had wrestling practice,'" said Mary, while holding back tears. "She said, 'no, I don't want to go.'"
Deanie ended up going, and while watching her brother wrestle in the Forest Hills Central Middle School gym, "she asked if she could go to the restroom, so she walked across the gym floor, and that was it; that was the last time I saw her," said Mary.
"You're so caught up and the adrenaline is flowing and you're just thinking, 'she can't just disappear,'" said John Peters, Deanie's step-father.
Massive searches were launched, both by air and land. In the weeks and months after Deanie's disappearance, media reports churned out, one after another.
"We did call the police," said Mary, but every lead authorities received were dead ends.
"You hope and pray and say, ' she's got to be calling soon,'" said John Peters.
But there were no calls. There was... nothing.
"What if we didn't move to Grand Rapids? What if I didn't take her to school that day? What if she just went to babysit?" questions Mary, recalling her immediate evaluation process soon after her daughter's disappearance.
These 32 years since the disappearance have eroded one of Mary's most cherished memories.
"I don't think I can remember her voice anymore," said Mary, continuing to fight back tears.
In 1992, eleven years after she disappeared, the Peters decided to declare Deanie deceased. On her death certificate, the word "unknown" can be read 15 different times:
- Cause of death - "unknown"
- Place of death - "unknown"
- Time of death - "unknown"
- Location of death - "unknown"
The Peters say they'd rather focus on what is known.
"Somebody out there does know what happened and they just don't want to come forward," said Mary. "I hope and pray that they don't take it to their grave before I go."
"Give us some compassion and let us try to get closure on Deanie's disappearance," added John Peters.
Detectives on the Kent County Metro Cold Case Team say they have located people living in Grand Rapids who are withholding information on what happened to Deanie and where her remains are, but they refuse to cooperate with authorities.
"She's alone. If she's dead, she's out there alone, and nobody should be that way; nobody should be left alone like that," said Mary, as she fought back more tears. "She should have a proper burial, and I ask God to watch over her and take care of her."
But until someone confesses, a room, nestled deep in the mountains of central Arizona will remain John and Mary Peters only sanctuary.
"All is forgiven," said Mary. "I don't care who did it, or how they did it, or why they did it. I just want closure; that's it."
The Kent County Sheriff's Department says a $25,000 reward remains available to the individual who comes forward with information leading to the discovery of Deanie's remains.
If you have information, you're asked to call either Silent Observer (616) 774-2345 or the Kent County Sheriff's Department (616) 632-6123.
WZZM would like to invite anybody interested to join the "Deanie Peters; WZZM Investigates" exclusive Facebook page, which has served as a clearinghouse for more than 2,500 followers. To find the page, click HERE and you will be taken directly to it.
By Brent Ashcroft